Innu leader pleads guilty on booze charge

The deputy chief on the Innu reserve of Natuashish in northern Labrador has pleaded guilty to possessing alcohol, just weeks after he campaigned to have a controversial booze ban lifted.

The deputy chief on the Innu reserve of Natuashish in northern Labrador has pleaded guilty to possessing alcohol, just weeks after he campaigned to have a controversial booze ban lifted.

Simon Pokue, who was elected last month, pleaded guilty during a court appearance last week to violating Natuashish's prohibition on alcohol.

Pokue and others, including newly elected chief Simeon Tshakapesh, had campaigned for a repeal of the two-year-old ban, which allows RCMP officers to lay charges against those who import or are in possession of alcohol.

"There's no change," Pokue told CBC News last month, shortly before a March 26 community vote in which residents voted to keep the ban. 

Supporters, including the RCMP, believe it has cut crime rates and led to social improvements, such as higher attendance rates at the town's school.

"People are still boozing; they're still drinking. And people are being arrested," Pokue said.

At the time, Pokue, a former chief in Natuashish, did not mention that he had been charged under the ban with being intoxicated and possessing alcohol.

In a court appearance last week in Natuashish, Pokue admitted to having about $500 worth of alcohol in his possession, including eight 26-ounce bottles of whisky and five 60-ounce bottles.

There was no evidence presented to suggest Pokue was selling the alcohol.

Pokue pleaded guilty to possessing the alcohol. The Crown agreed to drop the charge of intoxication.

He was sentenced to six months' probation and is not commenting on the incident.

Meanwhile, Tshakapesh is also facing a charge of being intoxicated. He has pleaded not guilty.